GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘university’

Creating Solutions: The Impact of an Administrator

In Vistas from Venus on 2010/06/04 at 09:00

Meg Palladino, writing from Boston, USA.

As the daughter of a public high school English teacher, I saw my mother spend entire weekends with stacks of papers and a stash of red pens, grading for hours.  I thought that teaching was an awful job.  Hoping to avoid that fate, I got my bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies, but after I graduated, I found that I had no idea what to do with my degree.  I spent a year working at Starbucks and  I realized right away that I needed to make a change.  I needed a graduate degree, and I needed one that I could put to use immediately after I got  the degree.  I found my way into Education.  I discovered that I have a passion for, and maybe even a talent for teaching. (I must get that from my mother.)

My interest in teaching came as a surprise to me, but not nearly as much as a surprise as my discovered passion for administration. It had never occurred to me that I could find a passion for management, meetings and spreadsheets.  The leadership, people skills, and time management I developed through teaching have helped me become a better manager.  My classroom management skills are the same skills that I use to run meetings effectively, with an agenda, an outcome, and participation from all participants.  The spreadsheets are similar to my grade book – they help me keep track of my information, so that I can report on it effectively.  Most importantly, I grew a thick skin in the classroom, which has helped me deal with office politics and take criticism without losing my cool.

As a teacher, I know that I can make a direct impact on the lives of my students.  As an administrator, I can lead change that will ultimately help larger numbers of students.  I can set policies that break down barriers for students.  I can think of curriculum from a wide angle lens, thinking about how a set of classes fit together to make a program, and I can think about the student life cycle from the moment they hear about our programs, though the application process, experience as enrolled students, and life after their academic program.

The macro view of creating and implementing a program is something that excites me. Instead of going home with a stack of papers to grade, I go home with my iPhone and countless unread emails to respond to, meetings to schedule, and spreadsheets to either fill out or analyze.  I realize now that if I like my work, it isn’t so terrible  to take it home and tackle it there, as long as I make time for an idle coffee at Starbucks with my friends, or to spend a weekend visiting my mother.  My impact as an administrator creates solutions for large numbers of students, and paves the way for future students.

Meg Palladino

Bookmark and Share

Carthage Ruins by Cernavoda.

Carthage Ruins from Amy Keus via flickr. Creative Commons license.

Sitting on Both Sides of the Table

In Vistas from Venus on 2010/04/23 at 09:00

When I made the transition from instructor to Program Director, I had a meeting with my  budget analyst to be sure that I understood the budget.  Clearly suspicious, he told me a story about the last instructor-turned-administrative person he had worked with.    The woman had waged a protest against a tuition hike for the program.  She felt it was unfair to the students.   He asked her one question, “Are you willing to give up your raise for the year so that we don’t have to increase tuition?”  That ended her protest.  This story illustrated to me that although faculty and administration are often at odds, they need to work together.

I am currently part of the administrative team at one institution, and part of the adjunct faculty at another.  Around the teacher room, I hear some complaining about “the administration.”  While I am in my administrative meetings, I hear some apprehension about faculty.  I frequently find myself siding with both teams.    Both sides have valid points and are doing the right thing for their positions.  Often, the goals are simply not aligned.

At one institution, I am a cog in the administrative wheel, part of a senior leadership team.  I know that it is my role to support the senior management team and to implement the institutional vision. I also must protect the institution, bearing in mind budgets and revenue goals, quality assurance, and delivering the educational program that we advertise.

At the other institution, I show up in the evenings, prep and teach my classes, and have little administrative oversight or support.  I have wonderful academic freedom to teach my class the way I want to teach it.  I am bothered by the administrative housekeeping of filling out forms and the logistics of finding a DVD player or a textbook.   I don’t miss the oversight; I do miss the support at times.   My goal is to provide my students with an engaging, challenging class that meets their academic needs.

Last night, rushing from my 9 -5 administrative job, I arrived late to a faculty meeting at the institution where I am part of the adjunct faculty.  I found the program director sitting on one side of the table, and the adjunct instructors on the other side.  I sat down next to the Program Director.  After I sat, I wondered if I should have sat on the side with my fellow adjuncts.  Then I realized that my experiences on both sides of the court give me legitimacy from both teams.  Both faculty and leadership know that I understand them.

I believe that the skill of translation is one of the most important skills that my generation brings to the 21st century workplace. We translate across languages, cultures, generations, and genders. In this case, I successfully translate between the culture of faculty and the culture of administration. I align the goals through translation.

Meg Palladino

Bookmark and Share

Mission Possible? Teaching Social Sciences to Engineering Students

In Guest Blogger on 2010/04/05 at 09:00

Guest blogger, Aslihan Erkmen, writing from Istanbul, Turkey.

I have been teaching Media and Art History courses to Engineering and Architecture students at a technical university for the past three years. One of the main reasons why I have returned to the academic arena from the private sector was the love of teaching, but I sometimes experience difficulties while teaching social sciences and art to students coming from engineering departments.

Engineering students are taught to search for exact solutions to daily problems related to buildings, machines, electronics, basic sciences, etc. 2+2 is almost always 4 for them and they aim to get to the target without noticing the fantastic stops on their way.

As a social scientist, I usually loved the journey itself no matter how hard it has been. There are always challenges on the way and the aim is to handle them, not to combat them. For engineers, every problem is a pain and the solution is the cure. There are certain rules and challenges in engineering and engineers (or engineer candidates in our case) do not handle them with joy but with seriousness. That’s why the Fine Arts and Humanities Departments work very hard to form interesting and fascinating schedules for the engineering students so as to widen their horizon and fill it with “social” sunshine.

At our university the students have to take 30% of their credits from Humanities and Art courses in order to graduate and they tend to choose the “easier” or “fun” classes like Photography, Film Art, Media and Society, Traditional Arts and Crafts, etc. wishing that the lessons will not be as difficult or demanding as Quantum Mechanics or Architectural Design. Most of them do not have any intention of learning how to take photos or how to make films. The majority of our classes are filled with students who are there just for the credits.

In my first year of teaching the “Media and Society” class, my students were mostly the writers of the student bulletin and they were willing to learn the main rules of Journalism while trying to achieve the basic journalist’s skills. The day of my course was pretty much the most eagerly anticipated day of the week as all of my students used to bring their questions into the classroom waiting to solve the issues. The following year my students were there for credits after hearing how much fun we had during the lessons.

As an idealistic lecturer, I believed that it was my duty to change this attitude and I tried to make them really learn something. I want the new generation to be aware of the beauties of Art, to gain Media Literacy and to try to develop their social skills. Sometimes my efforts work and after a few classes the students get more excited about the topics. Sometimes, the engineer within rises and questions the artistic traditions disregarding the contemporary conditions of the period.

I am still an amateur in teaching, but I am learning from every student in every class. I guess this is my challenge and I am willing to take it.

Aslihan Erkmen

Aslihan Erkmen is currently a Research Assistant at the Fine Arts Department of Istanbul Technical University (ITU) in Turkey. She is at the last stage of completing her Ph.D. on Islamic Art of Painting at the same university. She has her B.A. and M.A. degrees on Public Relations at Marmara University and a second B.A. degree in Art History from Mimar Sinan University in Turkey. She worked in Marketing, Communication and Public Relations fields in the private sector for almost 11 years. After returning to Academia she directed the Media Relations Office of ITU for more than 6 years. Her major interests are Islamic Art of Books, Traditional Turkish Art and Crafts, Sponsorship and Arts Management. She is also the co-organizor of an Art History Symposium that has been held at ITU for 8 years.

Denis Sullivan and Mary Churchill on Life As a Balancing Act

In Conversations, Voices from Mars on 2010/02/18 at 09:00

MARY      I’d like to introduce Denis Sullivan, a leader at Northeastern University in Boston. Denis is a Full Professor in Political Science and Director of both the Middle East Center and the International Affairs Program. He is also a fantastic friend and colleague of over fifteen years. Denis continues to be a close confidant and a key voice in my feedback loops. So Denis, did I cover the important pieces?

DENIS     Definitely! The main “piece” is our friendship. That is our primary connection, link, driving force. All the professional “goodies” on top of that are, in some ways, “means to our ends” – ways to keep working together, keep promoting great things for students and colleagues and friends around the world.

MARY      I agree. I wanted to include a conversation with Denis on The University of Venus because he has always been such a strong advocate for women, the next generation, international students and scholars, and international education.

DENIS      As a bit of background — Growing up with 4 sisters, a strong single mother – and at 84, still strong! – and a nurturing grandmother, and then becoming a father of 2 amazingly brilliant and talented daughters … that helps explain a bit about the ‘strong advocate for women’ you mention – for which I thank you!!

MARY      So I guess the question I would like to start with is – What do you see as the big opportunities for the next generation of women in the academy, women between the ages of 30-46? How do we guarantee our success? How do we make sure we get tenure, get promoted, and take on senior leadership roles? And the flip side of that, what should we avoid?

DENIS      The academy is in the lingering throes of male dominance. Women academics (faculty, staff, administrators) should leverage their collective power to push even harder –without throwing the baby out with the bath water! With the decades-long push to hire more women faculty, this is the time to put up the best and the brightest for faculty positions – and senior staff positions as well. And to allow for a more balanced leadership in academia – men and women who are the best suited for the positions they hold.

MARY      However, studies show that women are less likely to get tenure, get promoted, and less likely to be appointed to senior leadership roles. I think once they get tenure, they are in somewhat of a better place and I stress somewhat here. So, what is your one piece of advice for getting to the next level?

DENIS      Well, I have a recent case of a young woman who is finishing her PhD and is trying to balance work, life, and future career opportunities. Senior academics (such as me) have been pushing her to finish her PhD before taking on an administrative role but she tells us very clearly that this is not her priority right now. So who am I to say what is best for her? She is considering quality of life issues, economic necessity, having a child. It is not for me to “push” her; it is for me to give advice as a senior academic and to listen and learn from her – what she wants/needs, what her generation will build, which will in fact be what I deal with in the future, when I transition out of my life-long career in this profession – a long time from now I hope!

MARY       It will be a long time! The academics I know are working well into their late 70s and early 80s. Denis, I hear you saying that the rules of the game have changed. The process that you and your generation in academia went through is not the same for my generation – the next generation. In some ways it seems that there are more options – mixing administration and teaching/research but that the expectations are greater.

DENIS      As I see it now, women in academia are EXPECTED to have a PhD if they want to get into a senior administrative ‘track’ or in an area that MIGHT in future lead to senior leadership …

MARY       … And that women are also trying to balance work/life pieces where women of a prior generation either gave up husbands and children and/or worked through some very rough personal times.

DENIS      Don’t do that! Balance, balance, balance. Yes, there are now many more options to mix administration and teaching. It is absolutely a balancing act – think Dr. Seuss and Oh, the Places You’ll Go: “Life is a great balancing act”

Check out Denis Sullivan’s’ blog for a longer version of this conversation.

This is the first post in our Voices from Mars series.

Recruiting International Students: Moving Beyond Revenue

In Happy Mondays on 2010/02/15 at 09:00

Mary Churchill, writing from Boston in the USA.

Welcome to the February 15, 2010 edition of Happy Mondays here at the University of Venus.

What caught my eye (along with my mind and heart) last week was news from the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada on international students as revenue generators.

  • Why do universities recruit international students? Money – the primary consideration is financial. Higher education is big business and the profit margin – the ROI – is the overriding motive. Senior leaders are pretty open about the link between international recruitment efforts and revenue.  The International Association of Universities (IAU) recently announced a new service assisting institutions in internationalization efforts. One of the services they offer is helping institutions develop “marketing approaches to attract more exchange or fee paying international students.
  • In the current economic climate, universities in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia are  “desperate” to recruit full-paying students and for many, international students represent a growing market.
    • According to Stephen Connolly, higher education is Australia’s third-largest export earner at 17 billion employing over 100,000 people. (see Connolly’s article here)
    • Similarly, Nicholas Keung reports that international students created 83,000 jobs for Canadians last year with students contributing $6.5 billion to the local economy. (see Keung’s article here)
  • So, not only has globalization brought a “free trade of minds” to higher education but also a free trade of wallets. Generally, anyone who can pay their way is welcome. The financial winner is the country with the least barriers. In higher education, this has been Australia. However, “winning” has its consequences as witnessed by the rash of attacks against Indian students/taxi-drivers in Australia. (see Ziguras’s excellent post on the GlobalHigherEd blog).
  • As Meg wrote in last Friday’s post: “Students need support in understanding the differences in order to cope with culture shock and to ensure academic success… the differences themselves can create big problems if they are not identified and ways to cope with differences provided.”  I would add to that – Institutions also need support in understanding these differences.
  • If we do not change the mindset of the faculty and staff at the universities recruiting international students, we will not create an environment that facilitates the success of the students. If faculty and staff do not embrace international students as part of their core constituency, the students will not succeed. International students typically move halfway around the globe, leaving their support structures of friends and family thousands of miles away. We become their new home – their new family and friends.
  • If we do not work on changing the mindset of the cities and countries receiving these students, we are creating an environment filled with “big problems” – a xenophobic society filled with hate crimes. As a society, we have an obligation to see international students as more than revenue generators. If we bring them here, we have an obligation to embrace them.
  • While the IAU is willing to help institutions attract “fee paying international students” their focus should also be on helping institutions develop the capacity for ensuring the success of those students.
  • I believe that we are obligated to facilitate the success of all of our students, not just our domestic students.  They are more than merely revenue-generators; they are human beings making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives…and ours!

Mary Churchill


“Cash-strapped universities desperate to recruit foreign students.”  Peggy Curran. Feb. 12, 2010. The Gazette

“Understanding What’s Up Down Under.” Pramit Pal Chaudhuri. Feb. 12, 2010. Foreign Hand Blog on Hindustan Times.’s-up-down-under/

“Visa rules change but the door remains open.” John Morgan. Feb 10, 2010. Times Higher Education.

“International education needs fixing.” Stephen Connolly. The Sydney Morning Herald. Feb. 10, 2010.

IAU Internationalization Strategies Advisory Service

“New rules help draw foreign students. Colleges laud move to speed visa process.” Nicholas Keung. Feb 8, 2010. Toronto edition of TheStar.Com–new-rules-help-draw-foreign-students

“Indian students in Australia: how did it come to this?” Christopher Ziguras. August 11, 2009. Global Higher Ed blog.

Aklatan/Library/Bibliothek/ライブラリ/Raiburari Re-invented

In Ponderings of a Peregrine Pinoy Professor on 2010/02/11 at 09:00

In my 20 odd years inside the academia, I have seen varying conceptions of the university library as a space. In the pre-electronic age of card catalogs and microfilms/microfiche, the main library of University of the Philippines Diliman (an American colonial, neoclassical treasure, with soaring ceilings befitting the pre-air conditioning period when it was built) was a refuge for freshmen in need of contemplation, solitude and occasionally,  an afternoon nap. It was akin to a medieval church, where silence is golden and dutifully enforced by hawk-eyed librarians. Food and drinks are strictly forbidden in all rooms, and can never be smuggled in as your bags checked on the way in and out. In this strict construction of space, the library predictably empties out of patrons during lunchtime and awards carrells (dedicated rooms) only to students doing their masters thesis/PhD dissertations.

In many ways, Northeastern’s (Boston) Snell library ca. 1996 echoed the call to serious scholarship that UP Diliman’s grandiose building evokes, plus-plus. For me, mining the electronic databases was as thrilling as free journal article printouts and pdf versions electronically-mailed to yourself. Those comfy round padded chairs are such a premium at the 3rd floor for international grad students who spend half their NU lives (the other being at the apartment) cocooned in them. Meals and drinks were taboo; NOT a vending machine in sight within the premises. One goes to the library to find elusive grad friends (like Taka who literally lived there!) but NOT to “hang out.” I embraced my carrell for 6 months of dutiful reading and writing for my dissertation proposal. In its tomblike silence and aesthetic austerity (and the view of planes making their way into/out of Logan airport), I labored and toiled for my PhD.

In the years following my itinerant life as professor/researcher, I had been a patron of the Meiji University (Tokyo) Ochanamizu campus library and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) SoWi and GeiWi libraries. Apart from their understandably modest English language materials, their electronic database is lightyears behind their US counterparts (too expensive they argue). SoWi’s all-glass southern wall provides natural light to the spacious reading room and the jungle of potted plants alongside it. No food, drinks or smoking allowed. Meiji gave me my first encounter of closed stacks, towering movable shelves, and discreet, enclosed spaces where food/beverage vending machines reside (it is considered POLITE to consume your food and drink beside the vending machines). In the pre-wifi enabled libraries of Japan as in Austria, young habitues were buried deep in reading, calculating and writing. They spoke in low tones and were quiet in their movements.

My return to an American university library seven years after my PhD was no less than a culture shock. Loyola’s (Chicago) art deco library building was “married” to an all-glass, smart-shaded Information Commons occupying the campus’s premier real estate– the lake front. The layout this “marriage of two spaces” created not only re-invented the library as a concept, it also brought me to a rude awakening of the follies of modern-ist thinking. A cafe with a 24/7 flat screen tv is situated in the corridor between these two buildings; food and drinks are allowed EVERYWHERE; students talk and hang out with their buddies, EXCEPT in one room (the 3rd floor at the Information Commons) where silence is strictly enforced; and wifi enabled throughout. The university library is actualized to mimic the neighborhood coffee shop where caffeine-dependent, internet-addicted, company-hungry young can be attracted to spend their precious time in; where lounges and easy chairs (facing the gorgeous lake) are in great number and laptops can be borrowed. It is the library made perfect for a generation of relativists, of no-boundaries.

I belong to an old school where serious scholarship is synonymous with silence and mental fortitude in a near empty stomach. While I celebrate the many conveniences modern libraries have made accessible to students, faculty members and researchers alike, I lament the blurring of spaces between sacred/profound (learning) and  gratuitous need. That millions of dollars are being spent to build these spanking new libraries-slash-Information Commons evoke a dying tradition where the centerpiece was the BOOKS. In US university libraries nowadays, the library is less about physically possessing the books or materials (why, you can get them remotely wherever you have internet connection) than a place to hang out, be comfortable and relaxed (as you stare at the zen-like blueness of Lake Michigan).

In the bowels of Third World university libraries like UP Visayas, books remain scarce; there is only ONE electronic database (OVID and with limited full text) and internet access intermittent with erratic signals from a remote cellular tower and power outages. But in this academia where patrons like myself make do, the library STILL evokes a romantic invitation to scholarship in its silent rooms, no-food-and-beverage policy, no mobile phone use (save texting, which we Filipinos are experts at) and hard wood seats. Without air conditioning in tropical weather, mental sinews are honed in this environment. It is, in my opinion, a better space to build character.

Bookmark and Share

University of Venus wordlized

In Images on 2010/02/04 at 06:53

Bookmark and Share